Speech by Frank Boulton, Medact Trustee and member of the Medact Nuclear Weapons Group, at the CND Emergency Demonstration against Trident renewal on 18 July 2016.
“I worked in the NHS for 41 years and I pay tribute to everyone in the NHS who worked with me. But I can guarantee that in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion over a city in the UK, the NHS would be rapidly overwhelmed. Were a bomb the size of Hiroshima to be dropped on Big Ben (over there) there would be an immediate flash of intense radiation and heat, and hurricane force winds to be followed by the deposition of highly radioactive fall-out. All of us in this square would be instantly incinerated: St Thomas’s Hospital, on the opposite bank of the Thames from parliament (and where I trained) would be obliterated, and the ring of destruction would spread out to Marble Arch.
Tens of thousands would be killed, and outside that ring many more tens of thousands would survive in the short term but suffer severe burns and physical injuries as well as the radiation damage, and would die in agony over the next hours or days. They would envy the dead because the dead would have avoided the dreadful suffering. Although some of the severely injured might survive if they had access to modern medical services, the sheer numbers of the injured would be overwhelming.
But that’s not all. Were there to be a nuclear war in which 50 to 100 nuclear weapons roughly the same size as that at Hiroshima were detonated over cities, ports and installations, so much soot and dust would be raised into the atmosphere that the sun would be dimmed – not just for a few days, or weeks, or even months but for years – perhaps for a decade. Well-modelled and close analysis has revealed that global crop production would be severely diminished and up to a quarter of the world’s population (two-billion people) could starve to death, most not even citizens of the belligerent countries.
Of course, some of the nuclear-weapons-possessing States say that this is why their nuclear weapons are so effective – the prospects of such horrors deter aggression. But deterrence depends on the concept of mutual destruction – if you destroy my country with your nuclear bombs, we’ll make sure your country is destroyed by ours. Yet all the time, the nuclear states are undermining deterrence by building better weapons and missiles, and also missile defence systems so that they can survive a nuclear war. By such means they would by-pass and undermine deterrence, making it bound to fail sooner or later. Furthermore, deterrence is also undermined by the high likelihood of an accidental or unintentional detonation – through human frailty.
So, far from our nuclear weapons making us safer, they are actually endangering us. The world is getting more insecure – Russia is threatening us, but Russia genuinely sees us as threatening them. The only solution to the escalating dangers of nuclear war is an agreement to BAN all nuclear weapons. That includes Trident: a start needs to be made now and there would be no better start than an agreement NOT to renew Trident.”